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Use of Symbolism in Catcher in the Rye

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James Merz March 10, 2008 The Use of Symbolism in 'The Catcher in the Rye' The book "The Catcher in the Rye" may, at first glance, appear to be the typical novel about a troubled teenager who is struggling to become an adult. However, if we are to view the book in a more analytical form we can see that many of the main events in the book have much more important and deeper meanings because of the use of symbolism, a technique that works through a pattern of recurring motifs to convey a message. This novel uses symbolism to impart its main messages. Three central symbols throughout the novel which are important to understanding the theme had to with Holden Caulfield (the main character), and the moral of the story. These symbols lay behind the title of the novel -- 'The Catcher in the Rye', Holden Caulfield's name and Holden's most significant possession - his red hunting hat. The red hunting hat is first introduced to us in the fifteenth page of the novel and it can be deduced from it that Holden is searching for something, hence the name Hunting Hat -- he is 'hunting' for something. ...read more.


For these reasons the hat is so important to understanding Holden Caulfield's interpretation of life, as well as the rest of the book. Holden Caulfield's name is also significant to a certain extent because it represents a theme in the book. It is thought that the name Holden is supposed to mean 'hold on', but hold on to what? His last name gives us a clue to this. The word 'caul' in Latin actually means "a part of the amnion sometimes covering the head of a child at birth". This suggests that Holden Caulfield would mean that Holden is actually "holding on to child's hood,"1. Holden's urge to remain innocent and how he is frightened of growing up, wishing to maintain a simple life in which he is able to understand everything. His confusion with growing up can be seen when he talks about sex, he says "[s]ex is something I just don't understand. I swear to God I don't" (Chapter 9). This quote represents how puzzling and frightening the idea of becoming an adult is for Holden. His name is not the only symbol of his desire to remain innocent and young. The title of the book, "The Catcher in the Rye" has a number of different meanings, the most important one in ...read more.


If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them." When Holden says this it is quite apparent that he has given up his role as the catcher in the rye, and how he has lost this part of him. He is ready to move on with his life and realizes it is not his job to save every child from falling into the unknown, because everyone needs to find out about the unknown for themselves. In conclusion, the symbols are crucial to understanding one of the many recurring themes of the novel: Holden Caulfield's attempt to remain an innocent child. These specific symbols - the red hunting hat, Holden's name, and the books title - are the most significant symbols which transmit the central theme of the novel and offer insight into the reasoning behind the novel itself. Through symbolism the reader is able to reach a deeper understanding of the novel and the main ideas the author wishes to transmit to the reader. Catcher in the Rye does an extraordinary job of not only using symbolism, but using it effectively, meaning that every time a symbol is recognized the book reaches a new level of meaning to the reader. Word Count: 1264 1 Holden Caufield http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holden_Caulfield. March 2, 2008 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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